Not so long ago, Americans’ exposure to mezcal was limited to just a few less-than-premium selections. Thanks to some enterprising importers, however, in the last five years quality mezcal has become much more available in the U.S., with connoisseurs starting to appreciate it as tequila’s earthier, rougher-hewn cousin. Crafted similarly to tequila, mezcal takes an extra step in which the piña of the agave plant is pit-roasted, imparting a smoky flavor not dissimilar to that found in peaty Scotches. Like Scotch, mezcal rewards experimentation. Exploration yields a heady universe of subtle varieties based on agave varietal, process, distiller, and age. Here are some of our current favorites.